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EU members protest US sanctions after Nord Stream pipeline threats

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a television interview appearance on June 4, 2020, in Berlin. (John Macdougall/Pool/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS)

Twenty-four European countries lodged a complaint with the U.S. State Department this week over President Donald Trump’s expansive use of sanctions to help influence American foreign policy goals, according to a European diplomat familiar with the communication.

The message, signed by all but three of the European Union’s member states, was sent Wednesday, said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified because the correspondence hasn’t been made public.

The so-called demarche was based on a July 17 statement by the EU’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, in which he condemned U.S. sanctions. He specifically cited Trump’s sanctions aimed at halting construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would link Russia and Germany.

Relations between the U.S. and the EU — and Germany in particular — have plumbed new lows, with Trump hitting his trans-Atlantic allies with sweeping tariffs and pulling out of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. Trump also announced plans to withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany last month, saying Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had been “delinquent” on defense spending.

An email sent to a State Department spokesperson seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline has become a central point of tension between Merkel and Trump, who has blasted the project for sending “billions” to Russia. Merkel has called new sanctions aimed at the gas route illegal.

Last week, three Republican senators ratcheted up tensions with a letter warning that a German Baltic Sea port would face “crushing legal and economic” sanctions if it continued to participate in the completion of the pipeline. Mukran Port, located in Merkel’s constituency, is a supply base for the 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) undersea pipeline.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas this week said EU member states would discuss to what extent extraterritorial sanctions violate international law, as he renewed his condemnation of U.S. threats.

“No state has the right to dictate Europe’s energy policy with threats — and it won’t work,” Maas told reporters Monday alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a daylong visit to Moscow.

All stakeholders of Nord Stream 2 still aim to complete the gas link, Lavrov said at the briefing. “There are reasons to assume that it will be done in the near future.”

Still, there is no consensus among the EU’s 27 member states on Nord Stream, with countries such as Poland condemning the pipeline for bypassing Eastern Europe and increasing the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy.


© 2020 Bloomberg News

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